Ship of the Month No. 143A CARMONA

Table of Contents

Title Page
The Editor's Notebook
Marine News
More About Britamlube
Ship of the Month No. 143A CARMONA
Emperor Revisited
Lay-Up Listings - Winter 1985-86
Annual Dinner Meeting
1985 Shipbreaking Activity at Thunder Bay
Books Available
Scott B. Worden, Jr.
Additional Marine News
Table of Illustrations

As readers of "Scanner" will know, our publication serves a double purpose. Not only do we attempt to produce features that will be interesting and informative for our members, but in so doing, we encourage our readers to add to the available information so as to make the records as complete as possible. The generation of members' participation is, we feel, one of our most important duties, and very seldom do T. M. H. S. members fail to take up the challenge.

Whenever one of our features generates comment and yields additional detail which we feel should be included in the record, we make note of such information in "Scanner". The additional material is usually of a brief nature and can be presented in a small note in a subsequent issue. On only one occasion to date have we ever duplicated a Ship of the Month feature, and that situation involved a steamer (CAPE TRINITY) about which we learned so much more as time passed that we were able to rewrite our feature in its entirety, and the vessel was again featured in these pages, no less than twelve years after the original article had appeared.

View dating from the late 1890s shows CARMONA still sporting C.P.R. stack colours, although owned by W. J. Brown and the Georgian Bay Navigation Co.
In the case of Ship of the Month No. 143, the passenger steamer CARMONA (00), (a) MANITOBA (84), (c) PITTSBURG, which was featured in the January 1986 issue, we find ourselves in a very unusual situation. We believed, when we penned it, that our seven-and-a-half-page history of this wooden-hulled sidewheeler was the most comprehensive narrative concerning the steamer that had ever been put together. It was, but be that as it may, we found ourselves faced with some extremely interesting questions which we were unable to answer, and we solicited the assistance of our members in attempting to resolve them. As we had hoped, our readers rallied 'round and came up with at least some of the necessary information. In fact, there was so much of it that we hesitated to report it solely by means of some point-form notes hidden on the back pages of "Scanner". We felt that this material was so important that we should run it as a completely separate feature, and so, for the very first time in the nineteen-year history of this publication, we have produced the "second instalment" of a Ship of the Month feature. We hope that our readers will have no difficulty in tying this material in with the events outlined in our original article.

We have also taken the unprecedented step of giving this feature the number "143A'. This may seem a bit peculiar, but we felt it advisable so that members in future years would recognize the "out-of-sequence" nature of this particular item, and would be certain to relate the original feature and the present follow-up. It will also assist those who (Heaven forbid!) chop up "Scanner" each month and file the articles away in their archives according to subject.

In any event, we now take up the story of the steamer when, on Wednesday, November 14, 1883, as MANITOBA, she grounded behind Chantry Island, offshore from Southampton, Ontario. Her companion, the Beatty Line propeller QUEBEC, also went ashore behind Chantry Island at the same time. The "Wiarton Echo" for Friday, November 16, 1883, contained the following report of the situation: "The steamers QUEBEC and MANITOBA, of the Northwest Transportation Line, were reported wrecked near Southampton. Another Southampton dispatch says 'the propeller QUEBEC of the Northwest Transportation Line arrived here on her upbound trip about 11:00 a. m. Capt Moore deemed it advisable to remain in port until better weather. In the meantime, the steamer MANITOBA of the same line arrived down from Lake Superior, and is still here. '" Not much of a hint of serious trouble for either steamer in that report...

It must be noted, however, that throughout this edition of the "Wiarton Echo" were numerous descriptions of "the worst storm in twenty years". Kincardine was apparently hit very hard, with the seas running so high that they carried right over the railway line and into the harbour itself. Nevertheless, although the news report tells us why the two ships were at Southampton, and why they might have been sheltering, it does not enlighten us as to how they came to be stranded inside Chantry Island. We remain of the opinion, however, that they probably were sheltering at anchor in the harbour of refuge and were caught in a sudden wind shift that threw them onto the Island shore, which suddenly was transformed from a place of safety to a dangerous lee shore.

The "Wiarton Echo" of Friday, May 23rd, 1884, stated that "The Canadian steamer MANITOBA, which went ashore last fall at Southampton, Ontario, has worked into a bed in the sand, and at last advice is full of ice and water.

She lies easy, with seven feet of water at the bow and stern, and six feet and two inches amidships. She is listed to starboard and it will require some time to straighten her up, after which it is expected that there will be no particular difficulty in getting her off." The Wiarton paper gave no further details of MANITOBA'S predicament or the salvage efforts.

We now divert our interest to a small book, entitled The Wreck of the ERIE BELLE, which was published in 1970 by the late T. M. H. S. member C. E. Stein.

The book deals in great detail with what has come to be known as "The Great Storm of November 1883", which caused problems up and down the shore of the Saugeen Peninsula. The tug ERIE BELLE was sent from Windsor to salvage the schooner J. N. CARTER, which was pounding apart on the beach two miles south of Kincardine. The CARTER had a cargo of squared timbers, and it was hoped that, even if the schooner were a total loss, some of her valuable cargo might be salved. As it turned out, ERIE BELLE left Kincardine at 8: 00 a. m. on November 21, 1883, bound for the CARTER wreck, but at about 3:30 that afternoon, the ERIE BELLE's boiler exploded and the tug became a total loss, four lives being lost in the explosion. The wrecked boiler has been visible for a great many years, and has given its name to Boiler Beach, a popular Kincardine-area stretch of the Lake Huron shoreline.

The first section of Stein's book comprises a series of marine news items taken from various press sources of November, 1883. First mention of the MANITOBA stranding comes with a note that "two propellers of the Beatty Line of Sarnia went ashore at Southampton. The salvage tugs MOCKINGBIRD and JOHN MARTIN were dispatched with steam pumps to their aid from Port Huron. " The next mention of the grounding comes with a notation that "the tug MOCKINGBIRD, which had left Port Huron to pull off the two Beatty boats aground behind Chantry Island, returned to Port Huron with the schooner L. C. BUTTS. The schooner's sails were blown out and her steering was disabled. "

Then comes mention that "over at Southampton, the Beatty liner MANITOBA lay in a precarious position just off the reefs of Chantry Island. Her sister ship (sic), the QUEBEC, lay near her, on bottom, having been scuttled to prevent pounding. " It is then mentioned that "the propeller QUEBEC worked herself off the reef at Southampton and pulled in behind the breakwater, ready to leave when the weather moderated. The MANITOBA still lay hard aground, as no tug had as yet arrived."

Another report indicates that "on Saturday, November 17. the (tug) JOHN MARTIN succeeded in freeing the QUEBEC, which moved to the inside dock at Southampton and prepared to leave for Port Arthur when the weather moderated, and did so at 5:30 in the morning. On Monday morning, November 19, the tug A. (ANDREW) J. SMITH arrived at Southampton to aid the MARTIN, since the MOCKINGBIRD was now otherwise engaged. Both tugs put lines on the MANITOBA. They failed to move her and, in the exercise, the SMITH broke her wheel. As the MANITOBA was not leaking seriously, carried no passengers, and had only a few boxes of fish in her freight hold, Captain Raerdon (sic. ), the Buffalo insurance representative in charge of the salvage operations, ordered the JOHN MARTIN to take off the fish, take them to Sarnia, and return with a new wheel for the SMITH. The MARTIN left Southampton in the face of a heavy gale Tuesday afternoon, November 20th, and was forced to put in to Kincardine harbour for the night.

Thus endeth, at least for now, the story of MANITOBA'S adventure on the shore behind Chantry Island. We certainly know more about the incident than we did earlier, but there still exist many unanswered questions in respect of just how MANITOBA and QUEBEC came to be grounded, and which tugs eventually freed MANITOBA, since it is obvious that the efforts of JOHN MARTIN and ANDREW J. SMITH in the autumn of 1883 were to no avail. Perhaps it was the same tugs that returned to the site of the MANITOBA wreck in the spring of 1884.

Let us now turn to events that followed the return of the steamer to service in 1888 as (b) CARMONA. It will be recalled that, although she was refloated from Chantry Island in the spring of 1884, and was taken to Detroit for repairs, she did not return to service until 1888, at which time she was, we believe, operated by or for the Canadian Pacific Railway on a connecting service designed to complement the railway's main passenger and freight route between Owen Sound and the Canadian Lakehead. Her actual owner at this time was the Canada Lake Superior Transit Company Ltd.

The "Owen Sound Advertiser" of Thursday, April 10, 1890, carried the following notice: "The Soo Line Steamships CARMONA and CAMBRIA are being fitted out and will commence running in two weeks or less. The CARMONA will be the first boat up this year. Both steamers are being magnificently painted and furnished, and undoubtedly will take the lead on this route as they did last year. The steamship CAMPANA will run on the Sarnia line this year. Her port bow is receiving a new plate in the bulwarks aft the anchordeck."

An advertisement carried by the same paper on April 17, 1890, carried word of the "Canada L. S. Transit Co. (Limited)", described as a "Local Steamship Route", being a passenger and fast freight line carrying Her Majesty's Mails between Owen Sound and Sault Ste. Marie. The CARMONA was advertised as being under the command of Capt. F. X. Lafrance, while Capt. N. Campbell was master of the CAMBRIA. The advertisement indicated that the boats would sail, during the 1890 season, from Owen Sound to the Soo every Tuesday and Friday, on the arrival of the C. P. R. train from Toronto and points east at 10: 30p. m. Calls were scheduled at sixteen North Channel ports on both the upbound and downbound trips. It is interesting to note that a very similar advertisement had appeared in the Thursday, October 18, 1888, issue of the "Owen Sound Times", that being the first year that CARMONA had been back in operation.

Based on reports contained in Robertson's Landmarks of Toronto, our original feature on CARMONA included a notation that she was taken to Lake Ontario during the autumn of 1890, and that she took up excursion service out of Toronto in the spring of 1891. It is now confirmed that she was on Lake Ontario in 1891, but she certainly did not move to the lower lakes in 1890, unless she was sent here for a trial period during the autumn and then returned to Georgian Bay, which seems somewhat unlikely.

Our source for this conclusion is the "Owen Sound Times" for Thursday, April 9, 1891, which carried the following notice: "It has been decided that CARMONA will run this season on an excursion route between Toronto, Lorne Park, and Grimsby. The engineers are now at work in their department, but the rest of the fitting out will be done in Toronto, there being some alterations necessary for the passage through the canal. Her officers will probably be those of last year, Capt. F. X. Lafrance and First Engineer O'Reilly. " So CARMONA was still in Owen Sound in the spring of 1891...

The article continued: "A Toronto syndicate is negotiating for the purchase of the CAMBRIA for a lower lake route. It is not known where the CAMPANA will be this season. We notice, by the 'Collingwood Bulletin', that Mr. Jas. Neil, bookkeeper, formerly local manager here of the Canada (Lake Superior) Transit Co. line of steamers, has made an assignment for the benefit of his creditors. Note: The ATLANTIC, PACIFIC and BALTIC of the Great Northern Transit Co. have taken over the route from Owen Sound to the Sault. They are scheduled to meet the C. P. R. trains and run on alternate days with the C. P. R. liners. "

It would thus seem that the Canada Lake Superior Transit Company had run into some rather severe financial difficulties which resulted in the termination of the charter of CARMONA, CAMBRIA and CAMPANA to the C. P. R., but Canada Lake Superior Transit, operating out of an office on Front Street East, was still the owner of CARMONA when she was operating out of Toronto. The arrangements that followed the financial problems brought CARMONA to Lake Ontario, but we cannot offer any meaningful comment at this time as to how those arrangements might have involved Messrs Smith and Keighley, wholesale grocers, who were the managers for many years of Canada Lake Superior Transit. Was James Neil, somehow, the goat in an intricate corporate shuffle?

We probably will never know for sure.

In any event, the "Owen Sound Times" for Thursday, April 23, 1891, reported that "CARMONA left for Collingwood at daylight this morning, to go on drydock". This was undoubtedly the beginning of the long voyage that would eventually take her to Toronto and the Lake Ontario excursion trade.

Our narrative will now take a rather different tack. During October, 1985,

W. Russell Brown, one of the foremost historians of the Lakehead area, passed away at Thunder Bay at the age of 104. Mr. Brown had done much writing on subjects of marine interest, but only recently have we become aware that he was intimately familiar with the operations of the passenger steamers CARMONA and CAMBRIA. That Brown should have known those boats so well is really not so surprising, for he was the son of George W. Brown, and the nephew of W. J. Brown, and both of these gentlemen were very much involved in the operation of steamers, and particularly both CARMONA and CAMBRIA.

Russell Brown wrote one particularly interesting article about these two ships and his involvement with them, and it appeared in the "Goderich Signal-Star" ("Huron County's Foremost Weekly"), on Thursday, July 13th, 1944. Much of the article specifically refers to CAMBRIA rather than to CARMONA, but we find the item to be of such great interest and importance that most of it follows here, verbatim.

"The CAMBRIA was originally the big sidewheel tug CHAMPION, built at Point Levis, Quebec, about 1875 (it was actually 1877 - Ed. ). She came to Lake Superior during the construction of the C. P. R. and was used in transporting men and supplies from the busy harbour of Port Arthur to the camps of the railway contractors along the north shore of Lake Superior. From Port Arthur, she was taken to Owen Sound, lengthened and rebuilt, and came from the shipyard as the passenger steamer CAMBRIA. Until the fall of 1891, she was operated along with the CARMONA by an Owen Sound company from Owen Sound to Manitoulin Island ports and the Soo.

"Competition became so keen on the Georgian Bay run, owing to the number of boats operating out of Collingwood, that the Owen Sound company ceased operating. During the following winter, a group of Port Arthur businessmen formed a company known as the Port Arthur and Duluth Steam Packet Company Limited, to operate a passenger and freight service between Port Arthur and Duluth. My father, George W. Brown, was the largest shareholder in this company, so as a boy of eleven, I went to Collingwood with him when the CAMBRIA was purchased and brought to Port Arthur. She lost money on the Duluth run, and after two years' operations, the shareholders turned the CAMBRIA over to my father to operate her on some other route. He decided to try the Windsor-Soo route, where the little steamer CITY OF WINDSOR had been operating.

"I saw the picturesque town of Goderich for the first time in September of 1893, when we took the CAMBRIA there on the first trip down to Windsor. William Lee, father of ex-Mayor Charles Lee, was appointed agent at Goderich. During the summer season of 1894, the passenger trade was so good that my father decided to get a second boat, and the CARMONA was purchased and was brought up from Toronto, so the two old boats became running mates for the second time." (So now we know that it was in 1894 that CARMONA returned to Lake Huron from Lake Ontario under Brown's ownership... )

"The return fare from Windsor to the Soo with berth and meals included was only $15. For this $15. the passengers got six days of travel, with calls at Courtright, Sarnia, Goderich, Kincardine, Port Elgin and Southampton, then across into Georgian Bay to Killarney, Manitowaning, Little Current, Gore Bay, Spanish Mills, Thessalon, Bruce Mines, Hilton, Richard's Landing and the Sault, with a stop of several hours at Mackinac Island on the down trip before calling again at all of the above ports in rotation. I was over this route every summer for ten years and never got tired of it. The wonder to me from then until now is why there should not be at least two boats on a route like this, with all passenger accommodation booked up for July and August at least. "

Brown then went on to describe how CAMBRIA left his father's fleet. One night in July of 1897, whilst CAMBRIA was upbound from Sarnia for Goderich, she ran foul of a wayward raft of telephone poles and severely damaged herself, although she was able to make the beach near Point Edward before she settled to the bottom. (Russell Brown was aboard at the time.) CAMBRIA was repaired and served other owners on Lake Ontario for a few more years. In the meantime, however, CARMONA carried on alone in W. J. Brown's service on Lake Huron and Georgian Bay, operating under the name of the Georgian Bay Navigation Company Ltd., Toronto. It is interesting to note that Russell Brown made no mention of the fact that, during his family's operation of CAMBRIA and CARMONA, both continued to wear what appear to have been the original C. P. R. stack colours, even long after the C. P. R. had any interest in the vessels.

Brown's narrative continues: "My uncle, W. J. Brown, who then lived in Detroit, rebuilt the CARMONA in 1898, then in 1900 he had her cut in two and lengthened at Collingwood. She operated under the name PITTSBURG until 1904 (it was actually 1903 - Ed.), when she burned at Windsor. In 1902, he chartered the U. S. steamer CITY OF THE STRAITS. I was assistant purser on the STRAITS and Capt. Alex Cameron of Collingwood was the pilot for the Georgian Bay part of the run. On the last trip down, I said good-bye to him as he finished his sailing days when he stepped ashore at Goderich. Two weeks after getting home to Collingwood, he passed on. Eleven years after this, his son, Capt. Bruce Cameron, had the old WEXFORD almost within sight of the harbour entrance to the same port of Goderich when the mighty storm of 1913 swamped that old ocean tramp along with many other newer and larger steamers, and drowned all the men that sailed them. "

The article by Russell Brown certainly gives us considerable much-needed information which fills in numerous "holes" in CARMONA's story. It confirms that CARMONA was back on Lake Huron by the spring of 1895, and that it was in 1898 that CARMONA received one of her many rebuilds. It also gives us more detail about what she did during her years of Brown ownership.

We are also now in possession of considerable additional detail in respect of the collision in which CARMONA was involved during 1899. In our original feature, all we were able to say was that, in 1899, CARMONA was in collision with a tow, which consisted of the Davidson Steamship Company's wooden-hulled steamer SHENANDOAH and the schooner-barges CRETE and GRANADA. The report we had indicated that, in 1902, the owners of CARMONA (which by that time had been rebuilt as PITTSBURG) were awarded the sum of $2,183.00 by way of damages, her operator at the time of the collision having been the Georgian Bay Navigation Company Ltd., Toronto, which was controlled by the Brown family.

The Davidson steamer SHENANDOAH was towing the barge GRANADA when she hit CARMONA on June 5, 1899. Young photo at the Soo dates from 1905.
A report of the incident appeared in the "Port Huron Times Herald" during June of 1902. "A decision by Judge McDougall of Toronto on Saturday, May 31, 1902, gave W. J. Brown and others, owners of the CARMONA, $2,780.00 (presumably including costs - Ed.) for damages due to a collision which occurred below Port Huron (in the St. Clair River). The CARMONA had entered the river from Lake Huron on (Monday) June 5, 1899, and encountered fog and met the upbound steamer SHENANDOAH. Passing signals were exchanged, with CARMONA blowing the port signal and the SHENANDOAH answering with a starboard blast. Both vessels then veered toward the American shore. The SHENANDOAH and the CARMONA managed to pass safely, but one of the SHENANDOAH'S barges, the GRANADA, struck the CARMONA, inflicting much damage. CARMONA, mastered by Capt. A. C. Cameron (we have already mentioned his involvement with the Browns - Ed.), was towed to Detroit for drydocking."

The "Sarnia Observer" also carried similar coverage of the judgment, and confirms that it was, indeed, GRANADA and not SHENANDOAH herself that struck CARMONA. The whole accident appears to have been a "comedy" of errors, and we have no idea why the conflicting whistle signals were not straightened out before both CARMONA and the Davidson tow turned in the same direction.

It is also not explained why SHENANDOAH'S master, if he disliked the signal given him by CARMONA, did not reply with the danger signal before offering the opposite signal. We also do not know how far away the ships were when the whistle signals were exchanged on the foggy river.

We can, however, place ourselves in the position of Capt. Cameron on the bridge of CARMONA, and it is not difficult to imagine his consternation when, having successfully averted a collision with SHENANDOAH herself, he unexpectedly was confronted with one of her barges, which probably was swinging towards his steamer as SHENANDOAH veered towards the shore. In those days of "rampant ad-hocery" in vessel operation, Capt. Cameron would have had no way of knowing that SHENANDOAH, looming up out of the fog, would have been towing even one barge, much less two, and we do not relish his situation at that point in time, knowing that his vessel was carrying not only freight but also a considerable number of passengers, none of whom would have any idea of what was transpiring on the fog-shrouded river.

In any event, it is fortunate indeed that there was no loss of life in the collision, and that all of the vessels involved survived to enjoy further service. CARMONA/PITTSBURG would last until her unexplained destruction by fire at Sandwich on Sunday, August 30, 1903. SHENANDOAH was broken up about 1929, while CRETE lasted until 1931, at which time she was dismantled. The GRANADA, which was built as Hull 65 of the Davidson Shipyard in 1895, 247.0 x 40.0 x 21.6, 1729 Gross and 1643 Net, spent her entire career under Davidson ownership and finally was dismantled in 1928.

Ed. Note: We sincerely hope that our members have enjoyed this further look into the history of a very famous steamer. Needless to say, however, this is far from the end of the matter, and any additional detail would be much appreciated. Meanwhile, we trust that readers will forgive us for presenting CARMONA's history in this fragmented manner, and for letting this month's material stand on its own, rather than going back and rehashing our original article in order to tie the additional data in place.

For their assistance in providing material for this second section of the story of CARMONA, we are greatly indebted to members Ron Beaupre of Port Elgin, Gordon Wendt of Sandusky, and Terry McCullough of Corunna.


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